Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Month of Living Abstemiously: The 2010 Edition

Tomorrow starts my annual giving up booze, given that it's the start of February. Last year I gave myself four passes - PLUS the Super Bowl. Ridiculous. This year, not so much. This year I plan to take it a bit more seriously. I was originally planning to give myself three passes plus SB, but have abandoned that and decided that this February I can have light beer while watching the Super Bowl, wine on Valentine's Day, and that's it.*

Because there are no passes, I'm attracting a little more attention this year - no Wine Club, for example, which makes me very sad as I've not been in ages. So I've had to explain my reasons. I think they are, essentially:
  1. Just to see if I can. Alcohol is, for better or worse, an integral part of my life. There are the worse things (like my head this morning after last night) and the better things (a solitary glass of great, earthy red wine as I enjoyed with an unbelievable duck dish at Dovetail this week, or a small but lovely glass of nutty, earth bourbon after a meal). It's partly, therefore, a test of resolve and also partly a way to recognise how lovely it can be, and not to take it for granted by drinking for the sake of it.
  2. Calorie consumption. Not just the alcohol itself, but I often eat far more than I need to both during and the next day. So a month of reduced consumption and more mindful eating is always good.
  3. Change of lifestyle. It's nice to find alternate things to do - going to the cinema, museums, having a nice quiet night in with cocoa and a book. Just to shake things up a bit and try something different. Of course, it's nice to do those things with a good glass of wine, or a refreshing cold beer, but that's not the point. Early nights are much more likely, and given that I've not been sleeping brilliantly of late, this may help.
So here we go, like a sales force into the night. See you on the other side!

* Unless my very dear friend's divorce comes through, and then we're going for spirits. Because, really, what else is there to do?

Friday, January 29, 2010


No other word for it. Well done to the prosecution.

But I have to wonder - would we have even the same outcome, let alone the speed, if Scott Roeder hadn't done this in a church? There is definitely a part of me that doubts that quite, quite strongly.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Community: An Assessment

Well, not really. I'm sure my love for the McHale has been mentioned once or twice on this blog (via my love of The Soup), and that is entirely the reason why I started watching this show; given how few new programmes I take on board per year, I do need a push to choose one over the others. And McHale was the only factor, really, that I considered, given that I really hadn't watched anything with the other actors in other than Chevy Chase, about whom I wasn't fussed either way.

After getting through over half this first season, I really do believe it's my favourite thing currently - and by that, I mean broadcasting right now - on network tv.* It's currently much better than 30 Rock, and although I have grown to very much like How I Met Your Mother, I think the latter suffers a great deal in comparison with Community. HIMYM is funny and warm and cosy, but lacks a lot that Community has. Community acknowledges and tests racial differences, but manages to offer the characters of colour roles far greater than a foil to the whiteness of the others. I think that's a rare achievement on tv; apparently Men of a Certain Age does something similar with Andre Braugher's character, and that's another reason I've set the dvr for that this week. But, moreover, I laugh out loud at Community in a way that I just don't at almost anything else. It's just much, much funnier than anything else right now.

And hot damn, if Alyssa hasn't written a much more thorough, in-depth and articulate assessment of why Community rocks so much. I recommend going to the link, if just to see one of my favourite exchanges between Jeff and Troy (who is definitely my favourite character thus far).

* This handily means I don't have to rate it higher than The Daily Show or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, my two favourite things on tv, full stop.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cats and Dogs

It was a genuinely foul morning when I finally surfaced from a very deep sleep. Howling wind and rain, although a good ten degrees (F) warmer than at the weekend. It was... horrid, frankly.

Whenever it rains, I get a chance to experience how deeply cultural tics are embedded in me, despite not believing in or living by those things. It appears that Americans don't have - or, at least, do not abide by - the superstition that it's bad luck to have one's umbrella "up" indoors.* I know this because when walking along the corridor to pick up a coffee, I pass offices and coatrooms and storage spaces; on a rainy day, all of these places contain an up umbrella. I can't help flinching when I see them. I don't believe we have bad luck because of it, but the customs of home, which include taking down your umbrella indoors, seem to stick, even though I don't think you'd get bad luck at home. It's just not what one does at home. And that instinct has stuck with me. Not surprising, really, but it is strange when and where these instincts, built up at home, strike.

* I can't find anything on line to suggest that this is a truth about all of the US, but I do believe you would never see open umbrellas in a London office, and I never did while at home.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Trust Women*

I've written on this before, but one of the things that bothers me most about anti-choice rhetoric is that it's now couched in "concern" for women, but denigrates their choices, intellect and integrity above all else. The Archbishop of Canterbury's patronising - and erroneous - assessment that women don't take life seriously by having abortions was a perfect example of this. Of course, I argued that in fact, abortions indicate that we take child-rearing extremely seriously, because the responsibility of raising a life is above many others (I refuse to say it's the most important thing anyone does: it's extremely important. But so is being a heart surgeon, a teacher, a firefighter, a paramedic - all these things that save lives and instruct our children).

This distrust is present in all the laws requiring ultrasounds before abortions, require waiting periods, require the doctor to read you a script reminding you that this is a human life, and so on. All these things tell you that you haven't thought about this; it's like discarding a pair of tights with a hole in it. Many women agonise over the decision; many women do not. But the idea that we don't consider it properly and think about what's the best thing all round, and we are not trusted, is pernicious and everywhere - particularly in the Supreme Court these days. It's insulting, it's discrimination - and it's utterly wrong. I support women who make the hard choice and have the baby; I support women who make the hard choice to not have the baby. Because it's your choice: and I have no right to distrust that it's the right choice for you.

Speaking of which: I recommend this entire post about tv shows covering abortions last night. But I had to highlight this passage from Private Practice, of all things, showing a gynaecologist being pretty impressive:

Maya: What about you, what do you believe?

Addison: I believe that until a fetus can survive on its own outside of the mother's body that it is not a life. I believe that life begins at birth.

Maya: So you think that my mom was wrong before and now she's right because she wants me to do this?

Addison: I think that your mother and I think differently. I can't help you with this decision. I can and will give you an abortion and I can offer you other options and see you through this pregnancy but I can't help you decide…As your doctor I know this is hard and this is an unimaginable grown up decision but you did a grown up thing and now you are in a grown up predicament and it doesn't matter what I believe or what your mother believes, it matters what you believe.

Maya: But my mom…

Addison: Until the 24th week of pregnancy what a woman does with her own body is her own business. It's the law. And a lot of fine women fought a long time to give you the right to do what you think is best. It's your body. Your choice.

* Today is the annual Blog for Choice day. This year's theme is one particularly close to my heart. In honour of the sterling service he did caring for women of all ages seeking his help, we remember Dr. Tiller and reflect on his urging to "trust women." I really like Jos' post on access and providers - surely more will come during the day. For my previous posts on this, see 2009 here and 2008 here. Note that in 2009, Obama campaigned that he trusted women. Thank goodness that seems to still be the case, at least with regard to the Global Gag rule. In a bad year for choice, that's something for which to be grateful.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

So Far, So Good

I have drunk a thing of water every day, and I did three pieces of exercise: I cycled at the gym twice, yesterday and Thursday (goodness me, how BORING it is, but not much choice given physio's restrictions) and went for two extra-length walks that combined to about an hour on Monday. So, thus far, I'm sticking to it.

I also have managed to do yoga a couple of times. I have noticed, thus far, that on the days that I do it, I am far more mindful for the rest of the day of my posture and sitting correctly. Which can only be good. I am still making the bed every single day, which is the one self-imposed resolution that I've stuck to for more than a month. This was #3 in NY Mag's list of 50 things to make your life happier. What annoys me is that, according to the author of The Happiness Project, "outer order contributes to inner calm. Especially if you’re living in a small space—but even if you’re living in a gigantic loft. Start each day with a concrete, albeit tiny (and therefore manageable!), accomplishment.” It's annoying because that was my justification. And I don't want to agree with someone who has written something called The Happiness Project. I just don't.

Friday, January 08, 2010

White Out

I love my home, I really do. I love the way we are filled with absolute wonder and the need to document it whenever it snows more than a couple of inches and settles.

But we are rather pathetic. Almost every football game midweek was called off; already the football fixture list for this weekend is "decimated," including Spurs' game at Liverpool where I was hoping we'd give them a boot up the arse.

And in comparison, look at the photos of this report of the Patriots' game at home to the Titans from October, 2009. October, not really the time you'd expect snow. In fact, it didn't snow in Boston, or 25 minutes south, in Providence, where we were for the weekend.

We are really quite rubbish to be so paralysed by bugger all snow. In comparison to 6ft high, 150 yard snowdrifts, as my mate experienced in Nebraska over Christmas. Now that is snow to be forgiveably hampered by.

Thursday, January 07, 2010


I have just spent the past half hour stuck in a morass that illustrates beautifully just why the U.S. healthcare system is, frankly, a load of old boswellox. The insurance company sent a payment to the diagnostic company; the diagnostic company claims it has received nothing. The insurance company tells me that I - not the people to whom I pay a large amount, monthly - am to phone the diagnostic company to get them to phone the insurance people to stop the cheque and start again. The diagnostic company "cannot make outgoing calls" - it's "just a call centre." I have to get the insurance company to fax them the statement of benefits. But the insurance company won't do that - vague worries under HIPAA, the patient privacy act, apparently. So now the insurance company will mail me the statement, and then yours truly has to fax the diagnostic company.

So let's get this straight: I am covered. The payment for the treatment has been sent, and approved. And yet I am running round like an idiot trying to sort this out for the people who I am paying so highly to run this stuff. So even when it works - i.e. covered healthcare - it doesn't work administratively or bureaucratically.

Frankly, it's ludicrous. It's times like this that I long for home.


I just logged onto BBC Radio fivelive to catch a report about the rather thrilling draw - no, not a contradiction in terms - in the third test at Newlands. I heard an excellent report by Michael Vaughn, who is becoming fast the most incisive and interesting commentator TMS now has - bright, perceptive, honest and very likable - I'm really impressed.

And then. Oh, BBC, really? Really? The next piece was about how Gordon Brown survived a leadership coup yesterday, which was fine. And then we descended into utterly offensive bilge as we heard about how women need to train their men and "withhold" things - presumably conjugal relations, was the wink wink nudge nudge behind the "expert's" tone - to stop them throwing their clothes on the floor. This is, apparently, an inherent problem with men because the expert's two sons did it - what more proof do you need? Furthermore, it is "the classic mistake of marriage that women think they can change their men, and men think their women won't change, but do." That's what the fivelive presenter, Peter Allen, stated, and we all laughed and went along with it because women are awful uncompromising nags who mother their husbands and men are little boys who need to be trained and are just naughty scallywags, really.

So I got all angry and annoyed and disgusted at the general hetero-dominance and inherent sexism that demeans men and women by these assumptions... and then I took a breath and laughed. Because I am so utterly grateful that this is not our relationship, this is not TOH and I; at least, I really truly hope it's not.

And then I read Two Gentlemen of Lebowski and all grumpy things were forgotten. This is utterly magic. Sir Donald; thou art out of thy element.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

New Year, New Me

As always, it's a new year and my thoughts tend toward resolutions. But, I'm a little wary of it, given how fruitless my efforts are (and the studies that show that you're unlikely to keep them). I think my TWO resolutions are going to be 1) three pieces of exercise a week (and I mean exercise, not a half-hearted 10 minutes on the wii fit) and 2) a canteen of water a day. TOH got me this for Chrimbo, so I have a lovely new thing to drink from - and that's what I mean by a canteen. I don't think it's accurate or the common use of the word, but still - that's what I mean.

Not that the resolution process is useless. If you think about it properly, it does give you a chance to reflect on what you'd like to do more of, what kind of things might improve your life, rather than just beating yourself up. There are things I want to do. I genuinely am going to give yoga a go, because all my physio has taught me how inflexible I am (so true in general) and also - I want yoga arms. I really do. All my friends with ace arms do yoga. I barely made it to the cinema last year, and I'd like to do that a bit more often. I want to go out dancing more often. Other than that... life wasn't so bad last year. I'll stick with what I was doing.